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Monica Nolan's hilarious LGBT parody of the hard boiled crime fiction of the '40s and '50s, "Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante" was a bit outside my normal fiction tastes, but it had such a fun cover I couldn't resist. Maxie is an ex-deb living in Bay City in the late 1960s. She survives on an allowance from her trust fund, until her society matron mom catches her kissing a girl in the country club bathroom and cuts off her funds. Maxie flits from job to job, angering her budget conscious girlfriend, Pamela, and eventually they break up. Maxie sees some mob activity and gets caught up investigating, trying to get to the bottom of it, especially since it seems like her parents are caught up in it and her trust fund is at stake. It was light and fun.

On the opposite end of "light and fun" was "This House is Haunted" by John Boyne. I really liked this one, it was spooky and creepy. Written in Dicksonian style of the 1800s, Eliza takes a job as a governess in the country after her father dies unexpectedly. When she arrives at Gaudlin Hall, there are no adults in residence, just two precocious kids, Eustace and his older sister Isabelle. Eliza presses everyone in the village for answers, like what in the heck happened to their parents, and finally gets their lawyer to explain: a year earlier, their father hired a governess, greatly upsetting his wife. She killed the governess one night and almost killed her husband, too. She hanged for her crime, but her spirit is back, protecting her children. Eliza is the sixth governess in a year, the first four are dead and the fifth barely managed to escape with her life. It was very, very good and I loved the chilling ending.

Graham Joyce's "The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit" was a bit of a ghost story as well, but not as dark as Boyne. David, a college student, takes a summer job at a beach resort that happens to be in the seaside town where his father committed suicide when he was three. All around town, David keeps seeing a man in a suit, holding a little boy's hand. David gets involved with a married woman, despite being terrified of her violent and abusive husband. It was a good story.

Lois Duncan's "Daughters of Eve" was really dated, but I enjoyed it. Written in the '70s, a group of girls in a high school are feeling oppressed by the men in their lives. Ruth's older brothers don't have to help out after school, but Ruth has to come straight home everyday to clean up, start dinner, and babysit. Bambi's boyfriend is overly controlling. Jane's dad beats her mom. The girls are part of an exclusive club known as the Daughters of Eve. Their faculty adviser, Irene Stark, encourages the girls to get revenge on the men that are keeping them down. I guess it was supposed to be a warning tale of feminism run amok, but honestly, the men were pretty darn awful in this book. I thought they all got what they deserved :)

So the last Georgia book by Louise Rennison finds Masimo sad about the Stiff Dylans going to London but determined to stay behind for Georgia, which makes Georgia feel bad because she's not entirely sure how much she really likes him. In the end, she tells Masimo to go and she and Dave the Laugh finally start going out together. Huzzah!

"The City" by Dean Koontz was pretty darn good, kind of spooky. In an unnamed city in the late 1960s, a young boy, Jonah, lives in an apartment building with his mom, who sings at a nightclub. His grandfather plays the piano, and so does Jonah. His good for nothing deadbeat dad finally seems to be out of their lives when a mysterious and very dangerous woman moves into the building, threatening both Jonah and a mild mannered man living on the fifth floor, Mr. Yoshioka. When she finally moves out they are both relieved, but the weirdness and threats don't end. Jonah and his mom move in with his granddad. What I took away from this book was that cities themselves are not inherently evil, but the people who reside in them can be.

I read the Sookie Stackhouse books already, but after the show True Blood ended on HBO, I felt like reading them again. This is the first one, and it's pretty good. Sookie is a telepath, and as a result she hasn't lived a very normal life. She's excited when Bon Temps gets their first vampire, Bill Compton. She can't read his mind, so she doesn't have to be bombarded by his thoughts. They start dating, and it seems like the locals are just getting used to Vampire Bill when young women known as "fangbangers" start turning up dead. Then Sookie's own beloved grandmother is murdered. Everyone seems to think it was Bill. Luckily in the end it was Rene, Arlene's second husband and current boyfriend.

The second Sookie book by Charlaine Harris finds Sookie being lent out by Eric to a nest of vampires in Dallas. One of them has gone missing, and Eric promises Sookie's mind reading capabilities to help them find him. Sookie does: he's being held prisoner by the Fellowship of the Sun, a cult that believes vampires are evil. Also, Lafayette has been brutally murdered (damn good thing HBO had the good sense not to kill off LaLa, otherwise, things would have been bad) and found in Andy's car. Portia, Andy's sister, is trying to find out who killed Lafayette so she can clear her brother's name.

So, after all the Alice books, I returned to rereading some fun Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison. "Startled by His Furry Shorts" is book 7 (and can I just say I *still* haven't found book 4 and I'm starting to go a bit manic??). The school is turned upside down by a rousing performance of "Macbeth", with the Foxwood Lads helping out with lights and props and such. Of course Dave the Laugh (oo-er) causes much hilariosity. Masimo's ex-girlfriend visits to tell him she is getting married, so now he feels free to date Georgia. He tells her this just as Robbie shows up, back from Kiwi-a-gogo-land. Of course. Georgia brilliantly evades the situation by running off to catch a nonexistent train. Excellent diversion!

So Robbie is back and misses her. And Masimo wants to date her. And Dave the Laugh is still edging about. Good grief, what's a girl to do? (I could tell you, Georgia, but I try to keep this blog PG). Wet Lindsay smarms her way back into Robbie's life, so that solves that. Georgia decides to give Masimo a go, but he is leaving for Italy in a bit. Can Georgia behave while he is gone? No, is the answer you are looking for.

So even though Georgia is convinced Masimo is her one and only Luurve God, she still keeps accidentally snogging Dave the Laugh. When she and Dave dance at the club while the Stiff Dylans are playing, Masimo gets the horn and tries to take Dave outside to settle things. Georgia stops them from fighting (girl, you mad) and Masimo goes off, sad. Oh man, she's made a right mess of things. This never would have happened if you'd gone with Dave in the first place LIKE I TOLD YOU TO A MILLION TIMES!

Okay, so I finished off the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I went back and read "The Agony of Alice". Alice has just moved to Silver Spring and hopes to be in beautiful Miss Cole's 6th grade class, where she is sure Miss Cole can teach her all about how to be the perfect young woman. However, Alice is assigned to dumpy Mrs. Plotkin's class, and she's miserable about it. She and Pam fight, vying for attention, but by the end of the school year Alice learns a valuable lesson in how much the inner person matters.

Alice is determined to be universally liked in 7th grade, but Denise Whitlock has it out for her from the start, until Alice comes up with a way to ease the tensions between them. Her dad and Lester are both having girl problems, though. Alice would love to help out, but somehow whenever she helps she only makes it worse.

Alice feels left out of so many things, so she joins a fan writing club at school and she and Pam and a few other girls get their ears pierced and start an earring club. Alice doesn't enjoy either activity much, but she feels like she has to do *something* to fit in and make friends. The book ends with her refusing to hurt Patrick in order to be part of the popular crowd, a decision that wasn't easy but was the best thing in the long run.

Alice has a terrible secret--she's scared of deep water. She's dreading the summer now and time spent at Mark Stedmiester's pool. Lester steps up and teaches her how to swim. Liz feels guilty about sneaking a copy of "Arabian Nights" out of her parent's room and ready the provocative bits to them, so she confesses to her priest who tells her it's okay to be curious but she ought to tell her folks what she did.

The summer after graduating from high school, Liz, Pam, Alice, and Gwen work for a cruise ship in the Chesapeake Bay. They get to meet some fun guys, but it's hard work. Then, Pam's dad and his girlfriend show up for a cruise with her mother right behind, making a fool out of herself until she gets kicked off the boat and Pam is humiliated. A generator blows, and the ship has to be towed back to port and the cruise line goes belly up, so Alice returns home for the rest of the summer.

And finally, the one we've all been waiting for! (STOP if you don't want it spoiled!)
This is it--the rest of Alice's life.
Alice goes off to college. Her first roommate is a disaster, but she makes some new friends and has some good times. Patrick decides to join the Peace Corps, and they break up. Alice dates, and ultimately gets engaged to Dave, but calls it off when she decides they don't have enough in common to make a marriage work. On her way to visit a friend, Alice runs into Patrick in the airport and they reunite. They start dating again, and get married. They have two kids: a girl and a boy. They live in Spain for a few years. Lester gets married and he and his wife have trouble conceiving until she finally gives birth to triplets. The older folks start dying: Patrick's parents, Ben (I wept like a baby). Liz and Gwen get married and have kids. Pam eventually gets married. The book ends with them returning to dig up the time capsule they buried back in 7th grade, when they are 60. I wept some more. All in all, it was a great run. I was kind of disappointed that Alice and Patrick got married because seriously, who marries the guy they've been dating since they were 11? Not too many people, that's who. But it was sweet and I'm glad Alice had a long and happy life.

Volume 20 of Robert Kirkman's "Walking Dead" is titled "All Out War". Rick convinces the group that they can't let Negan keep taking advantage of them and must strike first. They do, but Holly is captured by Negan and Shiva the tiger is killed in a zombie ambush.

"Starting with Alice" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is the first Alice prequel. Alice's family has just moved from Chicago to Maryland. Alice's dad brings her home a kitten she names Oatmeal. She starts hanging out with the boy next door, Donald, and makes friends at her new school: Sara and Rosalind. She is having trouble with a mean sixth grade crossing guard who doesn't like her, and three snobby girls in her class. It was sweet to see Alice as a little girl.

Three more earlier Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I've got the last one now from the library, and I'm dying to get into it, but I still have a few more early ones I'd like to try and read before I do. This is one of the "prequels", when Alice is in elementary school and one of her best friends, Sara, moves away. Her brother Lester breaks his ankle and almost misses his prom, until Alice comes up with a great way for him to go. At the end of the book, their dad Ben has announced that he's bought a house in nearby Silver Spring and they are moving.

In "Alice in Lace" one of Alice's teachers, Mr. Everett, has an interesting assignment for his students: he will give each of them a real life situation that they have to plan for, examining all the options and determining which one is the best. Alice and Patrick are engaged to be married and must plan a wedding, rent their first apartment, and buy furniture with only $5,000. One of their classmates, Jill, has to plan a funeral for her grandmother and she's so irritated by the assignment she falsely accuses the teacher of touching her inappropriately when he refuses to change the assignment for her. Jill is the one who later on gets knocked up on purpose because her boyfriend's mom doesn't like her. So yeah, do the opposite of what Jill does, kids, and you'll be a-okay.

The cover of this book is just--I don't even know. What the heck happened to Pam's hair? She never wore a crappy knock-off Annie wig in the book. What were they thinking? Anyway, it's the summer before high school and the girls decide to get in shape and start exercising and watching what they eat. A careless remark by Justin makes Elizabeth take it too far, however, and she becomes dangerously thin. Alice gets in trouble with her dad and is grounded. Alice volunteers at a local hospital and is there when her beloved teacher, Mrs. Plotkin, dies. She's disappointed when her boyfriend, Patrick, tells her he is going out of town the same week her father is going to visit Sylvia in England. She had hoped for a little alone time with him (Alice, you naughty minx!). Sylvia and Ben call from England with the news that they're engaged!

Back to Georgia Nicolson rereads by Louise Rennison. I have somehow misplaced book four of this series (tragedico!). So this is book 5. Robbie has left for Kiwi-a-gogo-land, and Georgia knows she'll never be happy again. At least, until the new lead singer for the Stiff Dylans, Masimo, otherwise known as the Italian Stallion, lands. Oo-er.

In book 6, Georgia goes out with Masimo, but he is also dating Wet Lindsay. Georgia doesn't want to lose him, but she also doesn't want to share him, so she tells him, and the book ends with him saying he will think about it. Robbie is writing letters and missing her from New Zealand, and Dave the Laugh is acting quite bizarre, talking about missed opportunities and whatnot, with random snogging thrown in for good measure.
Ah, to have Georgia's problems, just for one day! :)

A little break from the Alice books for a bit, and back to the world of adult thrillers. Anders de la Motte finishes up his Game trilogy with "Bubble". It was really great, I loved the ending and how he tied it all up in a way that was deeply satisfying and still made sense. HP is determined to bring the Game Master down, but who can he trust? Even his sister, Becca, appears to be in on it, working for Tage, whom HP suspects is the mastermind behind everything. Becca is researching things on her own and discovers just how far back and reaching the Game goes--even her long dead father was a part of it.

I like Diane Keaton a lot. I enjoyed her first memoir, and her second, "Let's Just Say it Wasn't Pretty", was good, too. In this one, Diane examines beauty and what makes us think things are beautiful. She also talks about her own insecurities with her looks, which surprised the heck out of me because I always thought she was so beautiful (she still is) and of course I was wicked jealous because hey, Woody Allen. God, the crush I had on him 20 some years ago!! Anyway, I like how she knows she's not perfect and doesn't try to be, and encourages the rest of us to do the same and enjoy what makes us different. I will try :)

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